Ben Wyvis, hypothermia and amazing children
by dogplodder » Thu Aug 28, 2014 2:43 pm
Route description: Ben Wyvis, near Garve
Munros included on this walk: Ben Wyvis
Date walked: 23/08/2014
Distance: 14 km14 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
It's a sleeping elephant visible for miles around - from An Teallach in the west to the Cairngorms in the south. We see it from our house. It's part of the folklore of Inverness. I vaguely remember on holiday as a kid in the 1950s my granny's take on the mantra "Cast not a clout till May is out" was "Cast not a clout till the snow's off the ben" and from many places in the town - most keenly felt crossing the old suspension road bridge - the massive omnipresence of Ben Wyvis kept a steadying eye on us all.
Looking benign in the late evening sun
So when my grandson wanted to climb his first Munro the obvious choice was Ben Wyvis. His older brother was also keen to climb it after a gorgeous autumn day climbing his first in the Crianlarich area.
When my friend's daughter got wind of the plan she wanted to come too so from early June we tried to fix a day when everyone was free. But what with school, swimming, football, running and holidays, kids these days have very full diaries and by the time the schools went back we still hadn't done it so there was a push on to find a free Saturday.
Recent weather hasn't been all that friendly and knowing Ben Wyvis, wind and children aren't the best combination I was reluctant to go in less than balmy conditions. I kept a fairly obsessive eye on the weather sites hoping for some improvement..... which did come - well kind of. Sunny intervals, scattered showers, winds of 10mph and summit temperature no lower than 4 degrees, with MWIS saying wind would have little effect on walking. This sounded fine for a well clad adult but I wasn't sure how the parents would feel about it so floated a potential low level walk instead. But the parental decision was we should go for it. Game on!
So it was that four of my grandsons, their 7 year old pal, my son, daughter in law and friend Jane with her two children parked at the Ben Wyvis car park off the A835. The ages of the children ranged from 11 to 3 and my son had brought a child's carrying frame. We had three cars so my son and/or daughter in law could turn back whenever it became too much for the 3 year old, which I imagined would be when the path steepened to climb An Cabar.
All set to climb Ben Wyvis
The kids were in high spirits and eager to discuss everything they saw. Crossing the bridge over the Allt a' Bhealaich Mhoir prompted the question "Why is there a fence hanging in the air over the water?" and when I said to keep the deer up the hill came the logical observation "Can't the deer get under the fence when it's that high?" Fair point. At the gate it was "Why are kissing gates called kissing gates?" and at the first drainage channel "What's this across the path - the Grand Canyon?" So from then on they counted all the 'grand canyons' and from the car park to the top of Wyvis counted 43. Can't verify the accuracy of this as I wasn't checking!
Striding up the path through conifers, birch and heather
Until we reached the forest track and waited for the adults to catch up
Then on up the path
In places the bracken was higher than the kids' heads and the cry went up "Jungle alert!" and when we came to muddy sections on the path it was "Mud alert!" Shouting this didn't actually help but it kept spirits high and I didn't hear one complaint from any of the kids (although it's possible the parents did!).
The heather was at its most Scottish
Lovely views opening up to the west
An Cabar ahead with a little cloud on top
I had thought by this point they'd be wanting a food stop but they just kept on going as the path left the stream, counting the grand canyons as they went. Even the 3 year old was going well (with much encouragement from his mum). He climbed much further than I thought he would!
Youngest climber with his sherpas
Secret Seven on a Mountain Adventure
Thanks to Jane for that last picture which captures the mood of the day so well!
Loch Luichart and eastern Fannichs
Fannichs, Loch Glascarnoch and distant An Teallach
We stopped for a chocolate biscuit break and I read out the Walkhighlands blurb about the plateau being habitat for dotterels. "Does anyone know what a dotterel is?" I asked. "A dotty granny" came the reply and after that they kept an eye out for dotty grannies - although I don't think they got a sighting of any apart from the tame one they had brought along with them.
Climbing in the sun made them warm and layers were shed but the wind was cold and the 6 year (who was at that point in the lead) got chilled and we had to quickly get more layers back on to him. We didn't want the group to get too spread out but waiting for others to catch up isn't easy with a cold north westerly blowing. Children lose heat quickly when standing still so I tried to introduce the idea of doing windmill exercises to match the wind farm opposite..... but that didn't catch on particularly well. Dotty granny syndrome.
As the path steepened the 3 year old went into the carrying frame which kept his dad very warm as he climbed but by the time we reached a large rock towards the top of An Cabar the wee chap was shivering. The prevailing wind was coming from the north so we went over the crest of the ridge on to its south facing side which was sheltered and sat on the grass to have lunch. Extra layers were wrapped round the 3 year old, his mum held him close, gave him something to eat and he started to warm up. They had all done brilliantly to get as far as they did (just short of the summit of An Cabar) but the wind was too strong for the youngest two and it was decided they would turn back at this point.
The whole group on An Cabar
Before we split up I went round all the children individually and asked if they were happy to go on to the Ben Wyvis summit or would they rather turn back now. I didn't want any deciding ten minutes later they'd had enough! They all said they wanted to go on so we set off at a good pace. A few minutes later my son called to me to stop. Since the two youngest were going back and one of them might need carrying he felt it was too much for one adult to go alone. Both parents would return to the car then he would come back up to meet us. This proved to be the right thing to do. To keep him warm they got the 3 year old to walk but both he and the 6 year old (who'd been leading on the way up) found the descent frightening and needed a lot of help and encouragement. It backs up what I feel - that going down is harder than going up.
So the climbing party was now down to two adults and five children and by now four of the children had put a space between us. They were very keen to "touch a cloud" so weren't hanging about!
Little people on the plateau
I had read out to them about damage to the soil from tramping of many boots and the importance of sticking to a straight line - but don't think they can have been listening to that bit! I'd been praying the cloud I'd seen earlier would lift, but two of the kids wanted to touch a cloud. It looked like their wish might be granted.
About to touch a cloud
Seven year old reaching summit of Glas Leathad Mor (translated as dismal, gloomy or awesome mountain)
There was a touch of sleet in the air and although well kitted out the kids were cold and huddled into the wind shelter. Jane had brought up cup cakes and chocolate buttons to celebrate their achievement and that's just what we were needing. They were chuffed to have reached the top. We didn't stay long as the best way to keep those kids warm was to keep them moving.
Ben Wyvis (1046m) first Munro for four of these kids!
Cromarty and Beauly Firths from summit
Jane and I had both been up Ben Wyvis but not for a number of years. I was up in 2004 on a warm July day and went on over Tom a' Choinnich and back across rough ground. We saw a flock of dotterel that day and stopped for Solero ice lollies from the snack bar on the road home. But this was more a day for hot tomato soup than Solero ice lollies and we were keen to get the kids down off the high plateau and out of the blast of that wind. I didn't at any point feel cold but I've got more body fat than they have, more insulating gear and am used to mountain weather. Children don't have the same resistance to the cold as adults do and it's important to factor that in when planning a trip. For August at 1000m think winter.
Start of the descent
Fortified by our sugar boost we started the descent. The kids quickly fanned out and I had to call them in when the cloud came down to stick close together so we didn't lose anybody. To keep morale up we went over Cairn a' Chaptein to a raucous rendition of "Ten Green Bottles" and by the time we got to one green bottle we were over it. But as soon as the mist cleared they were off at their own speed again which was tricky as Jane's knee was playing up causing pain whenever she bent it and my new boots were (for the first time this has ever happened) causing sharp discomfort to the toes of my left foot. But this was not the time to be hobbling gently down a hill so I had to grit my teeth and catch those kids. Could have done with some of those extending dog leads!
Mountain goat kids streaking down the ridge
Wind farm, Fionn Bheinn and Fannichs
After getting the others back safely to their car my son retraced his steps and met us about a third of the way up An Cabar. It was good to see him. When we reached the stream the kids were happy to play about doing stuff kids do around water and I was relieved to see the fleeces coming off - they were warm again and none the worse for their high adventure.
Verdict on the day?
An amazing bunch of children - who are great fun to be with!
A willing support team of adults - who carried a lot of stuff!
An awesome mountain - to be respected even in summer!
by Johnny Corbett » Thu Aug 28, 2014 2:51 pm
by AnnieMacD » Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:49 pm
by SAVAGEALICE » Thu Aug 28, 2014 4:32 pm
by The Rodmiester » Thu Aug 28, 2014 4:37 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:20 pm
I like the new definition of a dotterel ... come across one or two of those myself on the hills - and if any of the young ones are reading this I'm sure your granny will show you what I mean
Great photos too
by dogplodder » Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:16 pm
by dogplodder » Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:22 pm
Johnny Corbett wrote:Super stuff and brilliant to see the kids on the hills and enjoying themselves so much.
by mrssanta » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:10 pm
by dogplodder » Fri Aug 29, 2014 10:54 am
AnnieMacD wrote:Great read, dogplodder, and fantastic to see the children taking on the challenge and enjoying it. Big to the adults for taking them too.
Took it all in their stride and are keen for more.
by dogplodder » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:31 am
SAVAGEALICE wrote:Brilliant! Really enjoyed reading that and seeing your photos Well done kids!! ...(oh and adults too ! )
by old danensian » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:48 am
I hope they get to "touch a cloud" plenty of time in the future as well.
by Lightfoot2017 » Fri Aug 29, 2014 2:16 pm
Some fab photos there too.
I did Wyvis back in May and there was a (albeit brief) whiteout at the summit, and next to no views all afternoon. (I imagine its a fab hill in the right conditions with 360 degree views.) My abiding memory of this hill though, is the 3 points and the £100 fine I got for speeding on the way back down the A9
by BlackPanther » Fri Aug 29, 2014 3:02 pm
The mountain bug... the only healthy one for the youngsters to catch
My last time on Wyvis was in snow, I must go back again the coming winter - if we get the right conditions.
by dogplodder » Fri Aug 29, 2014 5:43 pm
The Rodmiester wrote: I'm hoping to get the grandson out again on Saturday for another blue balloon
Where you going? Hope it goes well!